At the entry of our home there is a large cherry door coupled with a second heavy screen that bangs shut—wood on wood—about one hundred times each day. When the doors were installed, a mechanism was offered to slow the close of the screen. We opted instead for the untamed echo of children dashing in and out of the house, accentuating a season of steamy aromas and unbridled sound—seaweed and clam scents wafting in, the high-pitched chirp of Osprey and a loop of machinery taming the wild landscape within our midst. Occasionally I have wondered about that choice.
A few weeks ago, an elegant dove selected a rafter on our covered porch in which to build her nest. It is a precipitous arrangement, crafted a short distance beyond the doorway in proximity to the most highly trafficked area of our home. I first noticed her up there on a cold, damp day before the sweltering heat had dropped like a curtain, propelling a rise of ozone along the seacoast. She appeared statuesque with her heather-grey feathers and unblinking eyes. In her stillness, I wondered for a moment if she was even alive or maybe injured—stunned by the cacophony of sounds—arguments around yard games, the wanton and repeated release of the door and the pack of kids running in and out in a mad search for the best location in which to play.
In time I observed she was mostly bound to her location and watched as she nestled for hours on end, tending to her brood. Her mate came and went from the area and perhaps took an occasional turn in her place, as evidenced by stray sticks and hay left scattered beneath the nest and caused by their movement. I’d hear his call from nearby, a tireless utterance that seemed to croon achingly at dusk when things quieted down among my own eager flock.
I was surprised when a contractor with weathered hands and wearing a watch cap noticed her, pointing her out to me as if I hadn’t yet seen her. He complimented her choice in location. A doting mother seeking comfort in the presence of another seasoned beacon for the young.
She knew she would be safe near you.
I had taken her under my wing. When I learned painters were coming, I considered holding them at bay until after her chicks were born. I had no idea how long that would take and because of the position of her nest and respect for her boundaries, there was no way of knowing how many eggs she had tucked inside. How would I have communicated that to the contractors anyway? I also feared the suggestion that I relocate her nest.
Imagining blasts of water shooting out across the floor beneath her, washing away the chipping paint, heavy work boots traipsing back and forth while she incubated new life, I wondered how she would cope and whether or not she would be able to stay. I kept thinking about why on earth she had chosen this spot for a nest when there were so many more-quiet, tucked-away locations for miles surrounding us. There was an abandoned house right next door with a sizeable, covered porch on which she could have experienced a guaranteed more tranquil retreat. Hadn’t she noticed how loud we could be?
This is all beginning to sound like a thinly veiled metaphor or transference—as if I am the mother bird.
Is it? Am I?
There are so many ways in which the world is speaking to us, mirroring aspects of ourselves, and offering direction in the way of symbols and signs. It’s as if there exists an alternate language beyond the use of words and the literal that utilizes the matter world to coax us along.
After warning the new workers of her presence, I went back inside and seemed to live vicariously every movement and sound that occurred outside the front door. Rotted wood discovered along a banister was yanked up and replaced with fresh new boards, loud hammering pounding out the hours of the day. From an upstairs window I observed the inner child of one middle-aged workman come to life as he discovered a stray football in the yard and began tossing it to his colleague in jubilation.
After the men piled back into a large vehicle and left for the day, I tiptoed out onto the porch and looked up to the white beam. I couldn’t know for certain what her experience had been, but I assured her nonetheless that she was safe and hoped she could somehow feel a sense of comfort emanating from me to her.
As the days passed, I worried less about the quality of painting that occurred and more about the well-being of our guest. Whenever there were breaks in the work, I poked my head out the front door, avoiding leaving footprints in the fresh paint and looked up at her in reassurance. She rarely moved and whether propelled by desire or instinct she remained steadfast in her dedication to protecting her clutch.
It was a relief when the crew packed up and left for good, our entryway brightened, and my feathered friend left in peace. Within days and without warning a second head popped up out of the nest. It was wet from the entrails of its shell and seemed much larger and alert than expected for having just burst into this seemingly hermetic world. Time propelled forward again rapidly, with more weeks gone by when I caught a glimpse of the baby bird having already left the nest and made its way to the porch banister.
Soon there were sightings of two doves flitting about all throughout our property—one day perched on the garden fence, the next soaring into the tops of a tree limb out back. It wasn’t clear who was who, I just knew they all, in one way or another, were thriving and had landed as if in a new space they were making their own.
The mother dove has since returned to her perch outside the front door, so it seems she has more work to do and there is more life to come. I check on her periodically, gazing up and sharing a few words kept between us and finding great comfort in knowing she is there.